Greek Coast Guard vessels were scouring the Aegean Sea on Sunday, searching for at least four asylum-seekers who apparently fell from a refugee-loaded sailboat that had crossed from Turkey and encountered rough weather.
Authorities said the remaining migrants — 24 women, 63 men and 21 children — were rescued in choppy waters off the island of Delos. The rickety craft was towed to a port on the nearby island of Mykonos.
Survivors said no life vests were available on the sailboat, nor was the vessel equipped with a lifeboat.
The nationalities of the refugees had yet to be determined. An investigation into their journey was underway.
Greece has long been the main route for migrants seeking to enter the European Union. While the number of illegal entries has dropped dramatically since a refugee crisis saw more than a million Syrians spilling into Europe in 2016, Greece fears a new migratory push may be in the making.
Notis Mitarakis, Greece’s migration minister, said, “We have noticed in recent weeks increased activity along the border where Turkish forces push, even escort migrants to specific outcrops, forcing Greek authorities to come, pick them up and bring them into Greece.”
“This all shows,” the minister said, “that there is an orchestrated activity in the making by the authorities there. These aren’t just random migratory movements.”
On Sunday, Mitarakis urged Turkey to take stronger measures to avert migratory flows from swelling into Europe anew.
But with tensions between the two rivals growing in recent months, pundits and politicians in Athens said they feared Ankara might spark a fresh migration crisis in order to push for greater rights in the oil- and mineral-rich Aegean Sea.
Turkey hosts more than 3 million mainly Syrian refugees, and Athens fears any sudden migratory push would spell serious trouble for Greece, a country of 10 million, at the peak of tourism season.
Greece also faces accusations of migrant mistreatment. Last week, Jason Apostolopoulos, a Greek rescuer, openly accused the Greek Coast Guard of carrying out illegal activities.
"In Greece we have the only Coast Guard in the world that instead of rescuing people at sea, they throw people into the sea," he said. "They kidnap refugees that reach the Greek shores and throw them back into open sea.”
Both Greece and Turkey deny the accusations, each blaming the other for the migration crisis.
Pushbacks are illegal because they block refugees from accessing safety and seeking asylum.